Archive | February 2011

Favorite Photos from Paris

Here’s a sneak peak at some of my favorite moments from our trip to Paris.

We had a wonderful time but it’s also nice to be home! xo, Mari & Paul

{Click on the collage to make it larger.}

Happy Birthday Matty!

We hope you enjoy your birthday! Love from Paris, Mari & Paul

Happy Valentine’s Day…

…from the City of Love, Paris!


Best Picture Nominee Two


I have to admit that since we watched this film on my MacBook Pro and not in the theatre, I probably didn’t see it in the best conditions. First of all, I was tired and may have closed my eyes for just a moment and second of all, the visual and sound effects while incredible on a smaller screen were probably¬† even better in a theatre setting. Despite those caveats I truly enjoyed this movie.

Inception is one of those movies that can be confusing while you watch but then it makes you think after it’s over. Not surprising coming from director Christopher Nolan. I don’t want to reveal any spoilers so I’ll focus on the high points and the low points of the film (in my humble opinion).

What Works

Christopher Nolan has come a long way since making one of my favorite films of all time: Memento. Now, with a bigger budget and higher profile cast he is able to realize a film that purportedly took eight years to write and again explores the dark reaches of the human subconscious. It is clear that the filmmakers focus on two central themes: dreams and architecture, two subjects I am also fascinated by.

I appreciate the sly reference to the architect couple Charles and Bernice Eames by naming a character after this dynamic duo and the reference to MC Escher’s drawings of impossible architectural feats. The entire story concept centers around the idea that dreams instead of just being born organically in the mind of the sleeper can be created purposefully, staged like a theatrical production, and shared with others. Since these dreams are constructed it follows that they can be deconstructed and hacked into by the film’s lead, Cobb (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) a dream architect and thief.

Cobb acts as the director of staged dreams and is supported by a creative team like the one surrounding a filmmaker including: the producer Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the production designer Ariadne (Ellen Page), and the actor Eames (Tom Hardy). While Cobb is usually hired to steal information or ideas through dreams from one corporation to benefit another, his final challenge and chance at redemption is to actually implant an idea, which we are told is next to impossible to do. Again, I won’t go into particulars, but Cobb has one fatal flaw: he has lost control of his own subconscious mind as a result of losing the love of his life.

The best parts of this film for me are the dream sequences in which the architects, designers, and actors create parallel worlds. As is often the case in dreams, the scenes are recognizable but not quite right. The laws of nature, such as gravity, don’t usually apply in our dreams and Mr. Nolan plays beautifully with this concept.

The film switches between what we are told is present day, flashbacks, flashforwards, and various shared dream states. The strength of this piece is that the audience is always left guessing where in time or in reality the action is taking place. While there are some clues we are never shown enough to trust what we are seeing. The viewer is therefore brought into their own dream world while watching the slick visual effects and dreamy cityscapes. Which leads me to my next point…

What Doesn’t Work

Though I’m all about putting the viewer into the mindset of the characters, this film is at times needlessly confusing. Granted I was half asleep for a minute there but sometimes I believe the movie suffered under the weight of all of the complicated action sequences and layers of allusions and illusions. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good twist and to second guess my own assumptions while watching but in the end I’d like to have an idea of what I’ve just seen.

I appreciate that the ending was left open to interpretation but for as glossy a movie as this was (read: commercial) I wanted a more satisfying feeling after it was over. I found myself recalling inconsistencies in the plot and questioning specific choices once I got a grasp of what I believe happened during the movie and that’s why I can’t totally throw myself behind this one. Loved the idea but wished the execution was more spot-on more like Memento and less Hollywood like The Dark Knight (sorry all you DK fans out there).

Happy Birthday Paulie!

Hope you have the most wonderful birthday ever. I am so grateful that on this day 32 years ago you were brought into the world.

Here’s to at least another 32 years full of smiles, service, silliness, and surprise!

I love you.



Saw this video by Will Hoffman and Daniel Mercadante with music by Keith Kenniff and it blew me away.

Thanks to one of my favorite podcasts, Radiolab, for featuring such incredible content.

Enjoy, Mari

From the Peace Corps Archives

“The Graduate”

For the holidays Paul gave me a vintage 1968 recruiting poster for the Peace Corps (see below). This poster includes the tag line: Find out what you’ve got before you decide what to do with it.

Much like the above TV ad aptly named, “The Graduate,” it appears that the main strategy for inspiring young people and recent graduates to join the Peace Corps in the early days was to tap into their sense of adventure, the need to separate themselves from their parents’ generation, the desire to take some time to live a little (and learn a lot) before settling down, and finally, the hope of making the world a better place.



Curious to find more examples of vintage Peace Corps ads, I found the Peace Corps Digital Library Collection and within it a treasure trove of vintage posters and print ads. In the late 1960s, the Young & Rubicam agency worked with the Ad Council on a Peace Corps PSA campaign. Interestingly, Young & Rubicam is responsible for coining the expression, “The toughest job you’ll ever love.” See below for some of my favorite ads!

Enjoy this blast from the past. Peace, Mari

Best Picture Nominee One

This will be the first year that I have the chance to watch all of the Best Picture Academy Award Nominees so I thought I’d challenge myself to review the films as I watch them. The complete list of 10 Nominees (doubled since 2009) is:

Black Swan * Inception * True Grit *¬†The Social Network * Toy Story 3 * The Kids Are All Right * The King’s Speech * Winter’s Bone * The Fighter * 127 Hours

Enjoy the first installment. Mari

Black Swan

In short – I was blown away by Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller. Watching the film I was also extremely proud of Screenwriter *Mark Heyman* fellow Brown University and College Hill Independent Alum!

Yes, it’s perpetuating some negative stereotypes of ballet dancers but more than anything the film demonstrates the sheer will and power of young women and men who bring their bodies to the limit for their art. I’ve always had an enormous amount of respect for the physicality of dancers but in this piece the audience also gets a look into the psychological demands placed on these young artists in a thrilling and exciting way.

Visually, Black Swan translates the story’s kinetic energy through jump cuts, reflections, and the manifestation of hallucinations while focusing on the interplay between light and shadow. Dance studios and backstage areas (especially after night fall) serve as the perfect backdrop for this dark story and the filmmakers weave references to birds and animals into the narrative expertly.

Flawless performances by a slew of strong females: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, and Winona Ryder ground this work in addition to stellar performances by their male leads: Vincent Cassel and Benjamin Millepied (Ms. Portman’s fiance). A lot has been said of Ms. Portman’s physical transformation into a ballet dancer but it is her ability to transform before the viewer’s eyes from a self conscious yet driven understudy into the fierce leading lady that she is that truly impressed me.

Costumes play a large role in this picture thanks to a collaboration between Costume Designer Amy Westcott and the sisters behind the Rodarte label: Laura and Kate Mulleavy. Apparently there has been some controversy over credit for the costumes on the film but nonetheless the piece is elevated by the additional visual art the viewer experiences through the meticulous and lush costumes.

Watch a New York Times video featuring the Mulleavy sisters HERE.

A Few of My Favorite Things

Here’s what I’m lovin’ these days:

In no particular order…

Black Boots

My sister gave me a pair of black knee high boots that I’ve been wearing a lot these days. Thanks **Sarah**! I’ve been searching for a replacement ever since my old black boots that I loved wore out last year. For as long as I can remember I’ve had a pair of black knee high boots that I wear pretty much from the autumnal equinox to the vernal equinox.


I pretty much LOVE every single thing for sale on Photojojo’s website. From the Camera Lens Bracelets to the Photoshop Fridge Magnets it’s the perfect place to buy gifts for the photo geek in your life (hint hint).


I don’t know what I did without an iPhone and now I don’t know what I ever did before my favorite app on my iPhone: Instagram. Perfect for camouflaging¬† low-light situations and adding spice to an otherwise dull camera phone image, Instagram allows you to add filters to your images that conjure up the early days of sepia to the muted tones of the 70s to the super saturation produced by Lomo cameras (although I could never get my real Lomo images to come out that well).


Speaking of iPhone apps, this one is a popular one: Scrabble. I hadn’t played the game in years (I’m a Boggle girl) but after playing with **Katherine** and **Jeremy** I”m hooked! I’m told you can also play against friends on a little website called Facebook but I haven’t gotten the courage to do that quite yet. I’m just getting back into the game so I’m using the app’s brilliant “teacher” function that shows me what word I could have created verses the one that I actually did. Nothing beats the thrill of matching or even besting the teacher’s suggestion!

Tiny Furniture

Follow Aura as she goes through a quarter life crises waltzing through gorgeous New York apartments in her underwear, falling for the wrong guys, and generally making bad decisions. You may want to slap every other character in this film but I think that’s the point. Written, directed, and starring Lena Dunham, Tiny Furniture doesn’t look or feel like your average coming-of-age film and thank goodness it isn’t.


I’ve always loved butterflies and they hold an even more special place in my heart after I was nicknamed Mari Mariposa (butterfly in Spanish) by some kids in Nicaragua. Interestingly, one of my favorite authors Vladimir Nabokov, was actually an ardent collector and researcher of butterflies. I had always known this was his hobby but I never knew that he was actually a lepidopterist who made some incredible findings way back in 1945. Listen to this NPR Segment about his theories of the Asian butterfly in South America.


It’s amazing how often I use my origami skills. Whether it’s turning a sugar packet into a crane or a gum wrapper into a bracelet, this ancient art form never gets old.


So loving books is nothing new but I’ve come to a greater appreciation of the many forms of the written word since: A. I started another Freebird Writing Workshop and I’m back to writing, B. I have more time to read, C. I’m attending the Emerging Leaders of New York Arts Book Club, and D. I’ve downloaded new books onto our Nook (thanks **Sonia**) and to my iPhone.


There is nothing quite so indulgent than thumbing through a glossy magazine. Whether it is while sunbathing, getting a pedicure, or during a long hot bath it’s one of life’s simpler pleasures.


Our new favorite store is a dollar store less than a block away from our apartment building. In addition to a surge protector and plastic cups I have found a wide variety of ribbon there to augment my collection from Hobby Lobby.

Nikon D3100

After selling my old DSLR, I replaced it with the new Nikon D3100 as a holiday present to myself. With 14 megapixels and video capabilities I’m hooked!

Moleskine Notebooks

Simple, elegant, useful. I use the small, hardcover reporter’s notebook for making lists and recording observations. I use the larger Cahier notebooks for taking notes in my Econ, Spanish, and Writing classes. I like looking through old notebooks to see what homework assignments I had back in college or the name and number of some long lost friend.

Black Sharpies

There is nothing more pleasing to me than black ink on a white page. Enough said.

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